By Sebastian Parker
So here it is – the second part of my report on a weekend of magic:
When I left off last time I had just finished the PTQ in Birmingham with an extra lucky 5-2 record. After the tournament Ben and I got a lift to the train station from Stephen, the plan was to take the train to Reading and stay over at a friend’s house and hopefully get in some pizza , dominion and (much needed!) sleep before the three of us go to the Nationals qualifier on the Sunday. We had looked up the ticket prices on the web – about £12 from Birmingham to Reading, £25 from Reading back to Cambridge. Unfortunately , unkown to us, the price we had looked up was for advanced tickets only, so when Stephen had driven off and we had found a ticket booth we were confronted with a rather unfriendly ticket attendant who told us it would be more like £45 each just to get to Reading. God knows how much a ticket back to Cambridge would be. Now on occasion I’ll spend £100 on magic, but “dropping a hundy” on train tickets is not something I wanted to do (especially just to play Standard...) Ben was similarly disinterested in the price hike, so we rang up Stephen to see if we could get back in the car and get back to Cambridge. Fortunately for us there was a traffic jam and Stephen had only moved about 200m from the station in about 5 mins so we got back in the car to disappointedly head (slowly) back to Cambridge.
That evening Ben and I stayed at mine. We played a bit online, playing Jund in 2-mans is so definitely profitable – you win at least 50% of the mirror matches and you crush all the random tier 2 decks people play. It’s a nice change that there is one definite best deck and I don’t have to do a bunch of analysis to figure out which archetype to play. Ben and I had also been playing Trace of Abundance instead of Rampant Growth our list, which aside from protecting your mana against all the Spreading Seas and Goblin Ruinblasters post sideboard, is something that most UW control lists are incapable of answering when on a Raging Ravine. (They need to have Celestial Purge AND another instant speed removal, which they usually have spent on your creatures and it always feels good when they are spending a removal spell late game on what is sort of just a fertile ground). We finally went to bed around midnight.
I woke the next morning to see that Ben was already drafting, he’d drafted a nice WR aggro deck and beat up on a 3 colour allies deck and a WB deck before losing to a pretty sweet UB deck in the finals. * While this was going on, we started discussing our options for the Extended PTQ. We could easily sell a Maelstrom Pulse to pick up the burn deck, a friend of ours in Cambridge has Thopter-Depths we could borrow if we could contact him. Up popped a PM from Chris Bateman asking if we were PTQing, and we replied only if we can get a deck. Of course, Zoo online costs more than train tickets so we hadn’t considered it but Chris just happened to have it going spare. Of course we jumped at the chance to borrow a top tier deck.
*I’m glad that people are drafting 3 colour and white-black decks because those are two archetypes which are just gonna lose so many matches to their mana. You can’t afford to have mana problems in such a fast and aggressive draft format, the reason you play 18 lands isn’t just because of landfall – you have to hit ALL your early land drops to be in the game. Missing a land drop in the first 3 turns can often be fatal.
Here’s the deck we registered:
Other Spells (14)
Round 1: Hypnotoad playing Boros
The match vs. Boros can be pretty dicey if you don’t remove their creatures early and they get lots of burn . A Steppe Lynx can end up dealing 10 damage if they execute their game plan. Otherwise, you can just crush them with your beefier creatures and higher quality cards – nothing in their deck is close in power to a Bloodbraid Elf or a Tarmogoyf. Their creatures are also really, really bad at blocking so if they fall behind they die pretty fast. Fortunately for us, game 1 was one of those crushing ones where we got ahead fast and never looked back. Game 2 was closer due to his Refraction Trap being a nice 2 for 1, but our Baneslayer Angel was too much for him to handle.
After the match we find out that Chris, who lent us the deck, has been booted from the event due to connection problems and hence has lost his 25 tix entry fee. We tell him we’ll try to win some packs for him to recoup his loss.
Round 2: freyja playing Affinity with Thopter Foundry
This round is best summarised by paraphrasing Marco reviewing the game in the replays while helping us with sideboarding. The polite version is: ``what the hell was that affinity player doing round 2?’’. That’s right – this guy really had no idea. The matchup has been strongly in favour of Zoo since Path to Exile and Qasali Pridemage came out, let alone the pair of Ancient Grudges in the sideboard. Suffice to say, we steamrolled game 1 and then game 2 when our opponent’s board (editor: battlefield?) was 2 land, Frogmite, Ornithopter, Arcbound Ravager , Springleaf Drum. We Lighting Helixed the Ravager at his end of turn and he sacrificed a lot of stuff to make the Ravager a 4/4, leaving him with just a land and a Ravager. We untapped, played & equipped a Jitte to our Wild Nacatl and attacked. Our opponent blocked with Ravager and then instantly conceded – no idea why he went all in on the Ravager, or blocked but there you go...
Round 3: ryo00 playing UGr Scapeshift with Punishing Fire
Game 1 we see a Punishing Fire, a Sakura-Tribe Elder, a Remand and a Jace. That is not enough to stop a Zoo deck from dealing 20. Game 2 he gets an Engineered Explosives to wipe our board, but we get a huge ‘Goyf and 9 points of burn and finish him off before he’s in the game.
Round 4: Scakewalk playing DDT
When playing in premier events online, I cannot stress how much of an edge you get by ‘scouting’ your opponents in the replays. Knowing exactly what deck your opponent is playing is great and if you’re lucky enough that they played against the archetype you’re playing, you might even see their sideboard strategy. Of course, Ben and I had checked the replays every round so we knew what our opponents were playing. When we had to mulligan our 7 into a six of Treetop Village, Path to Exile, 4 lands we discussed the options for a while. This is usually a really terrible hand, but 5 cards hardly ever wins and we might just be kold to a 20/20 on 5 cards. So we cross our fingers and keep, sure enough we path his 20/20, draw creatures and end up winning.
Game 2 the replay has disappeared from MODO so I’m not sure what happened, but I think our opponent played only lands for the whole game although he may have transmuted a Muddle the Mixture the turn before he died.
Round 5: TomM playing DDT
It’s easy to see how a DDT player could get to the 4-0 bracket, but the way this guy played you wouldn’t believe he’d won 4 matches. Game 1 he Thoughtseized a Path to Exile so we just played a couple of dudes until we played a turn 3 Knight of the Reliquary to his board of River of Tears, Depths and when he played land, Vampire Hexmage we thought we had lost... But he just passed the turn and let us untap with an active Knight of the Reliquary. We attacked with our other guys and Ghost Quartered when he tried to combo and block. He had no action after that and shortly died to a large Knight.
Game 2 he had lots of removal but no way to win so each creature functioned as a burn spell and then our burn spells functioned as burn spells to finish him off.
Round 6: Shorsh playing Ultemecia
Buzzing to be 5-0 in matches and 10-0 in games, as soon as we got paired we went to check the replay. By this point, a number of people had started to follow our progress – Rob sent us a link to Gavin Verhey’s article and Marco sent us sideboarding tips. Even if we did think it was a great matchup for us, this guy stood no chance – game 1 he colour-screwed himself out of blue using Blood Moon, and we even had our own Blood Moon in case he managed to answer his own. Game 2 he mulled to 5, was manascrewed again and conceded when we cast Elspeth on turn 4.
We think we may be now locked into top8, since only us and Zygonn (who we later found out is Jon Loucks) were on 18 points.
Round 7: Jon Loucks (Zygonn) playing Jon Loucks’ Scapeshift Zoo
Game 1, we lose the roll and he plays a turn 1 Sejiri Steppe. Nice land. Our hand is slow, but we have Blood Moon, Jitte and Bloodbraid so it looks quite good for a Zoo mirror. But apparently this isn’t really a Zoo mirror because when we tap out on turn 3, he “rapeshifted” us with a 17/17 Plated Geopede and an 11/11 Knight of the Reliquary.
Since Marco won his PTQ in Paris, he had not been paying much attention to Extended and had not seen this deck before and neither of us had played the matchup before so we were stuck for sideboarding against it. We decide on a strategy of removing all his creatures so that he can’t Scapeshift for the win. We side out the Blood Moons since he’ll fetch basics and they don’t remove his guys and side in Baneslayers and Lightning Helixes.
We start with a Qasali Pridemage, 2 Knight of the Reliquary and a Bloodbraid Elf. He Bolts the Qasali, Paths both the Knights and casts Ranger of Eos to fetch 2 Wild Nacatl. Our second Bloodbraid cascades into a Tarmogoyf so we are pretty even. Our opponent casts a Temporal Isolation on the ‘Goyf and casts a Vinelasher Kudzu – he’s definitely ahead. Our Lightning Helix goes straight for the Kudzu and we take some combat damage and trade off our Elves. Our second Helix has to hit a Wild Nacatl so we don’t die and our topdecked Nacatl trades for the Ranger. Our opponent seems to have been drawing land for the last couple of turns so now we’re both out of gas. Our next topdeck is... Qasali Pridemage to free our Lhurgoyf from limbo with exalted on the stack putting us ahead on the board. Our opponent topdecks nothing to compete with ‘Goyf and so we take the game.
Game 3 is fairly tense since winning will definitely lock us in to the top 8 whereas losing this round and the next might knock us out if our tiebreakers also take a nosedive. Jon Loucks gets off to a blistering start with turn 1 Steppe Lynx, turn 2 Geopede, turn 3 Vinelasher Kudzu. We Bolt the Steppe Lynx and play a couple of guys. On our turn 3 we decide that we are going to spend Path to Exile on one of his creatures before we untap next turn. We come to the conclusion that we should Path on our turn so that he doesn’t get a landfall trigger and get in for extra damage. We path the Vinelasher Kudzu and pass the turn. This turns out to be a mistake because our opponent plays a Sejiri Steppe to make his Plated Geopede unblockable and then casts Scapeshift for 5 lands including some Flagstones of Trokair, ending up with a 21/21 Geopede and lethal damage. Reviewing the play, we definitely could have played around Scapeshift by Pathing on his turn. We probably would have had to path the Geopede though so we would still have died to the huge Vinelasher Kudzu unless we topdecked a path.
Disappointed at our poor play and to not be necessarily locked in with a game win record of 13-2 with one round to play, Matteo messages us to say good luck, but Tom Harle is also playing for the top8 so not too much luck. (Tom Harle had an unlucky loss to some moron (editor: lols) in the Birmingham PTQ final the day before so we want him to make top8.)
Round 8: Bouncyer playing DDT
Game 1 he wins the die roll and we both keep our 7’s. We have a decent hand with Noble Heriarch, Path, Knight of the Reliquary, Qasali Pridemage and lands. He leads off with turn 1 Urborg, Thoughtseize taking our Path. We play land, Noble Heirarch. He plays Dark Depths, Vampire Hexmage and combos. We don’t topdeck the Path we need and lose to the 20/20.
Game 2 he gets a token, but we have the Path and then he doesn’t have enough removal for our guys and our burn spells finish him off.
Game 3 was a grind, where he managed to stave off our attack with Deathmarks and Smother until he got the Thopter combo down. We have Ancient Grudge to hold off the Thopter Foundry for a while but he transmutes for Academy Ruins and we don’t have enough pressure to kill him before Thopters take over the game.
Now disappointed at 6-2 (14-4) we are not necessarily in the top8, but our tiebreakers are great and we end up 5th in the swiss.
QF: Boom/Bust Zoo
Game 1 was a pretty interesting – we both built up a bit of a board and played out all our lands, trade creatures and removal and at the end of it we have a board of Noble Heirarch to his 3 Noble Hierarchs and Knight. He draws a Boom/Bust and Busts all the land, so we are in big trouble! Luckily we topdeck the Path to Exile for the Knight, while our opponent draws land. We draw a Treetop Village and our opponent gets another land. Next we get a mountain and a Bloodbraid Elf while our opponent continues to draw blanks. After a couple of turns, our opponent has to chump block with his Hierarchs and we actually win through a resolved Bust!
Game 2 was much less interesting as we just owned him with a Jitte. Only 2 matches away from a pro tour invite!
SF: Bouncyer (again) playing DDT
Game 1 he wins the roll and his hand contains Thoughtseize, Urborg, Dark Depths and Vampire Hexmage. Game 2, we get turn 1 Noble Hierarch, turn 2 Knight of the Reliquary, turn 3 Bloodbraid Elf cascading into Blood Moon, which elicits a scoop. Game 3 we mulligan into a Path to Exile, creatures and lands. It’s looking good when he only has a turn 3 Dark Depths/Hexmage but he plays a Chrome Mox removing a Muddle the Mixture and we know the writing is on the wall. We attempt the Path, which gets countered, we draw a Bloodbraid Elf which doesn’t cascade into a path so we lose. Nothing you can do about nuts combo draws like those...
At the end of the tournament we’re at 7-3 (17-6) which isn’t bad at all. Bouncyer ends up beating Pro Tour: Hollywood Champion Charles Gindy (aka theKid) in the mirror match final. Ben ends up with a LOT of packs in his account, but he gives enough packs to Chris to cover the costs of being booted from the tournament and a couple of extras. After subtracting the cost of Ben entering the tournament, the profit is pretty low - only a few packs but the experience of coming so close to qualifying is a real buzz. Last year contained so many PTQ top8s for both me and Ben but we are both yet to get there and top8ing once more without victory is bittersweet. Next time!
After coming so close, me and Ben really had ‘the fire’ to play in the last PTQ tournament of the extended season in London the next weekend. After Matt Light had won in Birmingham with Boom/Bust Zoo we thought we would switch the Blood Moons out for those – even just using Boom as a Stone Rain is really good. On the Friday evening, Ben came round to put the finishing touches on the Zoo deck, we printed out decklists and had two copies of the same deck prepped and ready to go to London. Saturday 7.30am my radio alarm clock woke us up with “and the news here in Cambridge – there has been a fire at Cambridge train station and all train services have been suspended until at least 10am” Noooo! Gutted, we got up and played a couple of 8-4 Zendikar queues but it’s just not the same without the pro tour invite on the line...
Thanks for reading,
Sebastian Parker (RisingSun000 online)
• Marco, Rob and Chris for supporting us through the tournament with sideboarding, scouting and cards.
• Match replays for letting us make sweet mulligan decisions.
• Magic Online for giving us PTQs and drafts.
• The unfriendly ticket attendant at Birmingham station and ticket prices being strangely variable.
• Bouncyer for comboing us out of the tournament...
• The arsonist who decided to sabotage our trip to the last PTQ of the season...